Happy Birthday, Lou!

January 5, 2021

When you say the name “Louie” at St. John’s University, the smiles that follow are genuine and instantaneous, as few people are as beloved by the University family as Lou Carnesecca. A coach, mentor, and friend to so many, Coach celebrates his 96th birthday this month.

“On behalf of all of our players and our coaching staff, I wish a very happy 96th birthday to Coach Carnesecca, who means so much to our basketball program,” said Mike Anderson, Head Coach, Men’s Basketball. “We wish him many more healthy years and thank him for all he has done to help make the St. John’s basketball family what it is today.”

A 1992 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, Coach Carnesecca is the winningest coach in the Men’s Basketball program history, boasting a 526–200 record at his alma mater. On December 5, 1965, he earned his first victory during his first game as coach, as St. John’s beat Georgetown 64–62 in overtime.

“Every day is a gift from God, and I am thankful for my longtime association with the St. John’s family,” said Coach Carnesecca.

“My life has been deeply influenced and blessed by the Vincentians who taught me and brought me back to the University, the many student-athletes who played for me, my coaching staff, and members of the athletic department, alumni, and all of the wonderful people I have met as a result of my association with St. John’s.”

He added, “I am especially thankful for my good fortune to work with and for my friend John ‘Jack’ Kaiser ’49C, who is one of the founders of the original BIG EAST Conference.”

In 1985, Coach Carnesecca famously led the team to a Final Four appearance. Over the course of 24 seasons, he never failed to qualify for a postseason tournament, including 18 appearances at the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament and six at the National Invitation Tournament.

He stepped away from St. John’s for three seasons to coach the New York Nets of the American Basketball Association (ABA), leading the team to the ABA Finals in 1972. He returned to the University in 1974.

William G. Schaeffer '73CBA, Director of Development, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, played for both St. John’s and the Nets, but never under Coach Carnesecca. Still, Coach had a profound impact on his life.

“I was recruited by Coach in 1969 to play basketball at St. John’s,” said Mr. Schaeffer. “Even though I never played for him, I am forever thankful to him for his belief in and support of me.”

Rino Grzinic ’77SVC, Director of Development, The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies, first worked with Coach at a basketball camp around that time, and the two have remained close ever since. “Coach Carnesecca lifts up everyone’s spirits with his presence,” said Mr. Grzinic. “He genuinely loves to be with people and cares about them—even if he does not know you. As he has often said, ‘It doesn’t cost you anything to be nice to people.’”

On 18 separate occasions, his teams reached the 20-win plateau. Coach Carnesecca was named BIG EAST Coach of the Year three times and Metropolitan Coach of the Year. He led St. John’s to BIG EAST Tournament championships in 1983 and 1986.

On February 11, 1984, he notched his 335th career win, becoming the University’s all-time winningest coach, surpassing his mentor, Joseph B. “Joe” Lapchick. Seven years later, he attained his 500th career victory, an 81–65 victory over rival Seton Hall University.

He retired from coaching in 1992, and in 2004, Alumni Hall was renamed Carnesecca Arena in his honor. Two years later, Basketball Legacy Honors were bestowed upon Coach and nine others: Walter Berry, Sonny Dove, Mark Jackson, Tony Jackson, Joe Lapchick, Dick McGuire, Chris Mullin, Malik Sealy, and Alan Seiden.

Honorees represent “the most remarkable careers in the long and storied history of St. John's basketball.” The selection enshrines each honoree's achievements in the rafters of Carnesecca Arena.

“Happy birthday to our living legend,” said Mike Cragg, Director of Athletics. “To me, more important than his age, is Coach Carnesecca’s continued impact by being a friend, mentor, and leader to so many around the St. John’s community. I thank him for being a daily reminder and motivator to always put people first.”

Make a gift in honor of Coach Carnesecca.